David Thorpe Explains Why He Thinks J.J. Redick Can Be a Starting Shooting Guard for a Playoff TeamJ.J. Redick wants the Orlando Magic to either significantly expand his playing time or else trade him to a team that will do so. Magic General Manager Otis Smith counters, "We do think he’s a pretty good player, but he’s a backup 2 (shooting guard)." Last year, David Thorpe wrote (ESPN Insider subscription required), "I've always believed Redick could become a starter for a playoff team, and he appears to be moving along that path now." I have done several posts disagreeing with Thorpe's contention that Redick is capable of being a starting shooting guard for a playoff team. Thorpe recently emailed me and during our exchange of messages I asked him point blank which starting shooting guards in the league he believes that Redick can effectively defend. Obviously, defense--particularly at the NBA level--is a team thing and not strictly a one on one deal but, as we have seen with Steve Nash in the NBA playoffs, when a starting player simply cannot guard his counterpart at all it places a great strain on his team's overall defense. Thorpe gave me permission to quote his reply verbatim in a post:
I find it absurd that you think JJ can not guard any starting two guard in the NBA. A good defender’s foundation is typically built on toughness, disposition, and intelligence. I have no doubt about his toughness and intelligence, and his disposition to defend should not be a problem if his coach tells him that he won’t be playing without trying to defend. But more importantly, most shooting guards need help in defending their opponent, when their opponent is a strong scoring threat. JJ would be no different. I do not think he would require much help (except on screens, of course) when he’s matched up with Rashad McCants, Ben Gordon, Maurice Evans, Larry Hughes, Willie Green, Michael Redd, Ray Allen, Ronnie Brewer, Richard Hamilton, Mike Dunleavy, Anthony Parker. Sure, some guys would post him up, and others can get shots over him. But they wouldn’t necessarily score efficiently in doing so. None of those guys would be a threat to just blow by him off the dribble all game. And none of those guys would love to chase him around screens all night, nor would they be able to just run and help on defense, leaving JJ open behind 3. A few years ago, when JJ was a senior in college, an All-Star two guard told me “I hope coach let’s us defend Redick with our point guard because that dude just runs too much for me. I have to save my strength to carry our team on offense”. Redick is a smart player, and would figure out how to be more effective as a defender.
The balance of offensive contributions to defensive liabilities is one that always must be measured. In Redick’s case, I think the balance scale would tip to the offensive side-meaning he would be more productive on offense than he would get “lit up” on defense. In many games. There are many, many players who play a lot, or start, in the NBA and are poor defenders. To single out JJ is a mistake.
Obviously, if Orlando Coach Stan Van Gundy thought that Redick could make a significant offensive contribution while also guarding Hamilton then he would have played Redick in the Magic's playoff series versus Detroit, during which Hamiliton was the leading scorer. Still, there are certainly cases in which a player has not received much playing time with his first team only to emerge as a valuable contributor with another team. I don't believe that this will happen with Redick for the reasons that I listed above and in my previous posts about him but it will be interesting to see what happens if Redick is indeed traded by the Magic.
I thank David Thorpe for taking the time to write a response to my previous posts and for granting permission to quote his response here; it is always interesting to hear from NBA talent evaluators, even though I disagree with him in this particular instance.
posted by David Friedman @ 7:18 PM